The Bowes Museum > About > Our History > The Building

The Building


John and Joséphine decided to build a museum to house their extensive collections of European fine and decorative art.  They chose Barnard Castle as the nearest town to Streatlam Castle, John’s main residence in England.  The French architect Jules Pellechet, who had worked for them in France, designed the building, although alterations were made later. The French style architecture is thought to be based on that of the town hall in Le Havre.

  
A local architect and builder, J.E. Watson of Newcastle and Joseph Kyle, were employed to carry through the construction work.  Many of the workers, and some of the suppliers, were local people.

 

Joséphine’s death in 1874, less than five years after she laid the foundation stone, coupled with John’s financial problems, meant that the Museum was still not complete when John died in 1885.  Responsibility for finishing the work fell to the Trustees appointed under the wills of Joséphine and John. The Museum opened to the public in 1892.

Information about reopening


We are delighted the Prime Minister has announced that museums can reopen this summer. We understand you are excited at the prospect of visiting The Bowes Museum and would like to assure you we have been developing plans to welcome you back into our beautiful building by late August; we are working on vital social distancing measures so you, staff and volunteers can be confident of a safe environment which everyone can enjoy.

We take pride in offering a relaxed and enjoyable day out for all the family, and with that in mind we are extending the Museum passes we have issued in the last year. Our exceptional Norman Cornish exhibition will continue until Autumn 2020 and we are planning to release details of a packed events programme, including the Christmas Market, over the coming weeks.

In the meantime the grounds of The Bowes Museum are open to be enjoyed by walkers and cyclists, in line with the government guidance on COVID-19. The parkland can be accessed through the front pedestrian gates between 10.30-4.45 daily. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support and understanding, and ask people to respect social distancing guidelines when they visit.

You can keep up to date with developments, including our reopening date here or on our Facebook and Twitter.